Mystery free corner parking at cyclists’ expense

Edinburgh Council gives three lucky motorists unrestricted free city centre parking, right on a corner where the national cycle route comes on and off…

Double yellows burned off for three lucky drivers, screw national cycle route

My commute to work got marginally more interesting recently when Edinburgh Council burned off double yellows on a corner next to the national cycle route access on Russell Road.

This corner was already bad for oncoming traffic cutting the corner, but it’s become joke-like since the three lucky motorists got free unrestricted parking just a stone’s throw from the city centre. At least one report of a collision has popped up on the CityCyclingEdinburgh forum.

Only in Edinburgh, the model cycling city 🙂

Invisible recumbents narrowly avoid death

A video looking at extreme recumbent risk-takers on Britain’s public roads… (or not)!

See how they blend into the tarmac!

I’ve been meaning to post something like this for years, literally. I make no apologies for having my tongue firmly in cheek with the subtitles… 🙂

So many people (if truth be told, other cyclists mainly) spout off about how recumbents inherently must be hard to see and express amazement that you commute on one for thousands of miles each year, let alone survive a trip to the corner shop without instantly being flattened…

Yet when you actually ride one, or see one being ridden, you inevitably think to yourself, wow – I wish riding a normal bike felt this safe, with so much room given by motorists…

We still have just the one recumbent versus seven ordinary bikes. There are lots of valid reasons why you might not want one. But based on my experience, safety on the road doesn’t come into the picture (unless it’s to say that you’re actually much better off on a recumbent than anything else!)

A tiny aside

Watch the road positioning between 50 and 60 seconds into the video. There’s a serious risk that motorists coming up this road will straddle the central speed cushion, forcing you right up against the doors of the parked cars on your side. This is neatly pre-empted by the assertive positioning of the lower recumbent rider (David Gardiner, the proprietor of the excellent Laid-Back-Bikes).

You will often hear people say that the only way to ride safely is to pretend that people can’t see you. On the contrary, mastery of the road requires you to understand and exploit the fact that everyone can see you quite clearly almost all of the time – their incentives just aren’t well aligned with your needs.

ASA-compliant cycling: low life expectancy

If you want to live more than five minutes cycling in the UK you *absolutely cannot* afford to cycle as timidly as this!

If you want to live, get out of the gutter

The ASA kicked up a storm a while back with its ludicrous and widely-condemned verdict that cyclists must be shown cycling in the gutter in the mainstream media.

This week the ASA issued a humiliating climbdown, but too late for this pair of Edinburgh cyclists who I passed on a commute the other day.

Holy shit, if you want to live more than five minutes cycling in the UK you absolutely cannot afford to cycle as timidly as this:

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that these people were killed under the nearside of an overtaking HGV. You can see how little hesitation the three motors in front of me in the queue have in taking up the invite to pass. The internet is littered with the names of cyclists killed by truck drivers in circumstances like this, including more than one in Edinburgh.

Safe responsible cycling means getting in the way of dangerous driving. It’s easier said than done, but I’d rather have a shouting match with a moron every six months than be six feet under.

Road without pavement?

…or pavement without road? A critical look at the contradictions in provisioning “space for cycling” and expecting it not to compete with pedestrian interests.

Or pavement without road?

As the debate about manufactured conflict on Edinburgh’s cycleways continues, there have been encouraging signs that I’m not alone in wondering why people are suddenly held to a much higher standard when they leave their car at home.

Less than chivalrous behaviour behind the wheel is seen as lamentable, perhaps, but certainly understandable, even inevitable. When the same person is persuaded to try cycling instead, any failing on their part becomes a moral panic, not just bringing down wrath on them but on all of the other 43% of UK citizens who own bikes!

I’ve already written about my scorn for collective responsibility (twice!). In this post I’d like to try and stir some thought on the other great question of our times: why is it seen as less than legitimate to use a shared cycleway for… cycling on?

I was prompted to write this post in particular by yet another CCE debate. The point has been made many times that people drive at similar (or greater) speeds on roads where peopler are walking, with or without pavements, so cycling behaviour is both expected and still a massive improvement. Someone replied:

A cyclist brushing by a pedestrian at 20mph on a shared space route doesn’t feel like a brush with a slow moving vehicle.

Make driving in town wholly unattractive … thus freeing up road space for safer cycling.

Then remove the shared space routes; it doesn’t work, and will never work, while people see them as a belt along as fast as you can pedal, (motorised)traffic-free cycle route.

They’re not; they’re for pedestrians and more vulnerable, less road-confident, or just those out for a meander, cyclists.

If you want a “hard-going” route into town at maximum pace, use a road. Not a shared space. It doesn’t work, and causes unnecessary animosity.

A question of expectations

Edinburgh’s West Approach Road was built onto the North British rail line which ran into Princes Street Station (demolished in the late 60s). It’s an unfriendly tarmac canyon which speeds traffic for a little over a mile, saving drivers a few minutes at either end of the day:

edinburgh-west-approach-road

Let’s suppose for a moment that the Council decided to seize the forum’s advice boldly and re-allocate the West Approach Road for cycling. They’d probably want to let some greenery grow at either side and have a narrower strip of tarmac, but everything about the route is otherwise spot on – good gradients, well lit, etc etc.

At last we’d have a route which re-allocated space to cycling, one which wasn’t contentious with pedestrian lobby groups, a virtual paradise!

But wait… Edinburgh Council have done *exactly this* with another stretch of the same railway line. Just a few hundred feet from the paving of the West Approach Road, the same railbed has been (slightly more sympathetically) tarmacked and presented to the city as a key commuter route which is not accessible to cars:

nepn-busy

Naturally it’s wildly popular with people cycling between the West End, Leith, and anywhere else in the northern half of the city. And what do we say about it?

“remove the shared space routes; it doesn’t work, and will never work … use a road”

Crikey.

Cycle routes for cycling on

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks this process of self-hatred is weird. I don’t want to condone nasty cycling any more than I would condone nasty driving, but if we have any realistic aspirations for cycling as an everyday (continental style) activity, we have to understand that people must ride somewhere.

Some of them will go faster than others, and if the West Approach Road ever is converted to a shared cycleway, we *will* see this exact debate play out again. It is not realistic to imagine that we can create separate cycle space free of pedestrian conflict, because almost by definition, cyclists and pedestrians will compete for anywhere that fear of violence at motorists’ hands is removed.

Shouldn’t we be honest about the fact that creating cycle space competes directly with other modes (pedestrian as well as motorised) but that it’s still eminently worth doing?

Shouldn’t we be up front about the fact that not every driver is perfect, and so taking people out of their cars in the process of making a more liveable city inevitably results in less-than-heavenly cycling, but that this is still a huge leap forward?

Because if even cyclists don’t believe this, what hope anyone else?

Manufactured conflict

Two way traffic (and pedestrians) are forced into head on conflict which just didn’t exist before, and has been completely manufactured by the redesign of the path…

Public funds squandered making vital cycle route less safe?

In the north-west of Edinburgh a short stretch of tarmac links the city centre with West Lothian and Fife, converting tens of thousands of car journeys from the gridlocked A90 to virtually car-free bike commutes.

Just twenty minutes hard riding will take you from the edge of Edinburgh at Cramond Brig Toll to Haymarket, or down to Leith – without ever suffering from the city’s dodgy drivers.

Recently the city decided to spend a sackload of cash giving this path a facelift, the primary benefit being path lighting to improve personal safety. (Unfortunately an unlit wooded path doesn’t convert all that many car commutes to cycle ones in the winter months, especially – if you can forgive an anecdote – amongst the women I know who would otherwise use this route.)

In short order the contractors came in, repaved the path and added in the handy stud lighting that has proven so popular on the Union canal. So far, so good…

barnton-feat

Then the rot started to set in. Within days, trenches were dug across the path and half-buried bricks put in, to prevent cyclists getting too comfortable. Giant slow signs have been painted everywhere for the benefit of occasional dog walkers, putting them in a strong bargaining position when Fenton is allowed to hospitalise a hapless commuter.

Finally, a chicane has been put in at the top of the path along with the city’s favourite “tramline” tactile paving (naturally no space has been allowed for cyclists to negotiate the paving before the chicane, they’re right next to each other).

Incredibly, the city actually paid to *remove* the existing path entrance and even put giant boulders across it. Now two way traffic (and pedestrians) are forced into head on conflict which just didn’t exist before, and has been completely manufactured by the redesign of the path:

Apparently this has been done because “we are under a lot of pressure from residents there to tackle excess speeding from cyclists”, according to a council source. (Strava reveals that the 85th percentile cycling speed is under 20mph and the official Stats19 data shows there were no injuries, even slight ones, to any pedestrian or cyclist in the ten years from 2000-2010, but hey ho).

Take a look at the video. Is that really what residents wanted? Couldn’t they have enjoyed walking along a path that’s twice as wide where cyclists start off on the opposite side?

kaputnik_pathimage
Image pinched from the discussion on the CCE forum, by Kaputnik

Ironically the far side of the path (I didn’t bother uploading the whole video) is considerably narrower as houses have been built hard up to the tarmac, with typical lack of foresight. There the council has installed speed tables because residents’ driveways preclude chicanes.

The moral would appear to be that it’s OK to drive at 20mph but cycling at that speed is reckless, optimistically ignoring the fact that 95% of the people cycling through *are* drivers who’ve given up the cut-and-thrust of Edinburgh’s roads. (While you wouldn’t drive on such a path, after you remove oncoming traffic and parked cars from the width of Edinburgh’s actual roads the space you’re left with to drive in is not dissimilar).

I don’t pretend to offer any kind of solution to the odd nutter on a bike, other than pointing out that we should be using the available space to make wide paths when it’s so easy to do so. Unfortunately so long as the only alternative route is a multi-lane road where traffic is either completely stationary or belting along at 40-50mph, a lot of commuters are going to switch to an attractive empty cycle path, and every so often one of them will annoy a pedestrian.

It’s still better than putting them back in their car.

The Recumbent Attribution Error

It’s easy to blame the bike, but really, bad driving is universal and we shouldn’t be fooled into having a safety debate over superficial differences…

Don’t be lazy when trying to find something to blame

As spring gets into full swing, I’ve dusted off the recumbent to put some miles in ahead of Saturday’s 400km Southern Uplands brevet.

After getting used to the usual antics of drivers between Balerno and the city centre – close passes, cutting in and out of lanes, aggressive driving and horn use – it’s been pretty refreshing to enjoy bags of passing room, no cutting up and no aggression.

I don’t believe this comes from some mystical power of the recumbent to soothe the angry beast behind the wheel, but simply because it jars people out of the well-worn groove that “it’s only a bike, I don’t need to give him much room”, or “it’s only a bike, how dare he hold me up from speeding to the next red light”, or whatever.

Something interesting did happen the other day though, as I was motoring along Slateford Road at over 25mph in the morning peak. See if you can spot the driver who apparently failed to see my recumbent?

It’s not close, I merely chose this as an illustration of the principle – hands up if your default response to this sort of situation would be “well, what does he expect riding around on an invisible bike?” or maybe “he got lucky, he could have been taken out if the distance had been a bit less”?

For my part, I was mildly vexed that the driver had pulled out on me when I was going so fast – only by flooring it was he able to keep the car in front until I rocketed past at the next set of lights. However, after countless thousands of urban miles, I know better than to take the lazy option of thinking that a bike which is at any distance just a few fractions of a degree lower than another bike is actually going to be hard to see.

Instead, my experience tells me that while there’s no meaning difference in visibility (or conspicuousness?) you’re never going to eliminate that proportion of bad driving that comes from not looking at all, or more likely – being seen perfectly but the driver ultimately doesn’t care.

This was illustrated nicely immediately afterwards… take a look at the full clip:

Nobody would ever suggest that the driver who pulls across multiple lanes of rush-hour traffic didn’t see the white car – that would be ridiculous. We find it easy to attribute this kind of driving to a total failure to look or (more likely) a high risk threshold / unhealthy disregard for the safety of others.

Throw a recumbent into the mix though, and even fellow cyclists are worryingly prone to tacking the blame for any mishap on the height of the vehicle (am I that much lower than the car in the video? Really?)

This “recumbent attribution error” is so common that I can’t even be bothered to find any examples (if you like, try googling for Councillor Michael Stanton, who infamously told a registered disabled constituent that he should have gone to Dignitas, the Swiss euthanasia clinic, rather than ride a recumbent, and you should find some robust discussion).

In my experience of riding a recumbent in rush hour Edinburgh, the only safety disadvantages are found in a few niche, easily avoided circumstances. They’re massively outweighed by the huge safety benefits of removing almost all the wilfully terrible driving that a cyclist normally receives.

In fact, it’s easy to argue that it’s probably a lot safer because it forces the rider away from the temptation to, say, skim the side of parked cars on the approach to a side street, so you just don’t do it. Combined with the mirror, taking a much more positive road position is probably half the advantage, with the rest coming from drivers’ apparent fear to be aggressive towards you.

I’ve been meaning to write something on recumbent safety for years but just can’t get into it as a topic – probably because whenever I ride mine, it feels so safe that I can’t understand why I keep going back to a normal bike for the rat race.

Hoy on cyclists’ collective responsibility

Maybe if you want respect you do have to earn it, but here’s the thing: cyclists aren’t really interested in “respect”. What we want is not to be killed or maimed.

Why do celeb cyclists keep getting it wrong on group punishment?

“Even Chris Hoy hates you!”, a BMW driver shrieks at a bemused middle manager who’s just trying to get to work by bike. After swerving at him a few times and maybe throwing a half-empty Starbucks out of the window, said BMW driver roars off in search of a fresh vulnerable road user, leaving our hero to try and pick up the wreckage of his day.

Confused much?

There was a feature in the Torygraph last week titled “Chris Hoy: my anger at dangerous road cyclists” in which Hoy seems to have done his level best (whatever his intentions) to perpetuate the myth of collective responsibility.

This is the nasty idea that your physical safety outside your home depends on some kind of group reputation, aka “respect”, which has to be preserved by everyone who ever buys a bike. Hoy’s message to Scotland’s cyclists? “If you want respect you have to earn it”.

Hmm. I want my colleagues at the office to respect me, but even if they don’t, they sure as hell aren’t allowed to hit me with deadly force in the car park.

You’d think it would be straightforward to stick to condemning dangerous, aggressive, or outright violent driving without getting into the murky waters of victim blaming and whether or not “she deserved it”, but apparently not.

Exactly why your health should be hostage to any of the millions of Britons who can easily buy a bike and piss all over the highway code is not an idea that is fully developed. Anyone who’s been involved in a similar article knows how it goes, and we could just chalk this up to the media agenda, but perhaps because it’s a bit close to home, I feel the need to stick my boot in.

phone-driver1

phone-driver3

phone-driver2

I just pulled this driver up at random from public video footage – no particular connection with the article, other than the broad daylight offending. Where’s Jensen Button or Lewis Hamilton to tell us motorists need to earn respect if they want to avoid getting points and killing people?

Extrajudicial violence

In Scotland we have built an incredibly hostile road environment, where extrajudicial punishment of cyclists for real or perceived failings is routine and the response of the police and judicial system is timorous and ineffective.

For better or for worse, so long as Scotland’s motorists are able to run rampant with impunity a significant number of those who choose to get about by bike will choose to opt out of the niceties of the Highway Code.

Just a couple of minutes from my house, drivers park fully on the pavement outside a new block of flats, forcing pedestrians to walk on the busy A70 at all hours of the day and night.

I won’t try and develop a moral hierarchy in the space of one article, but we should be able to agree that if you were one of the people who had to dodge traffic walking past that block of flats every day and you went on to buy a bike, you’d probably find it pretty easy to justify hopping onto the pavement for a few seconds yourself. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, right?

I’ve written before about my lack of success with Police Scotland even when a motorist committed a blatant offence in High Definition video (then proceeded to wave his mobile under my nose while explaining why it wasn’t his fault), although others have had more luck than me.

The right to life doesn’t need to be earned

Maybe if you want respect you do have to earn it, but here’s the thing: cyclists aren’t really interested in “respect”. What we want is not to be killed or maimed.

Imagine if the civil rights movement had been referred to every misdemeanour committed by a coloured person and told “if you want respect, you have to earn it”.

Imagine if people complaining about poor rape conviction rates were pointed to (random) crimes committed by women and told “if you want respect, you have to earn it”.

I could go on, but hopefully the point is clear. The right to life is not something that you can forfeit because a stranger on the other side of the country who happens to own a pedal-powered vehicle once pissed your assailant off. For some reason pavement cycling and red light jumping annoys motorists more than driving on the pavement and jumping red lights committed by other people in cars. So be it.

Chris Hoy is just the latest celeb to shoot his mouth (and foot) on this subject, following hot on the heels of luminaries including Bradley Wiggins (who with majestic irony was smashed off his bike moments after explaining that cyclists just needed to obey the law and everything would be OK).

Maybe next time Sir Chris could just say “pavement cyclists? Whatever. Ask me when 85% of drivers* don’t admit to speeding and using a mobile phone”.

Failing that, perhaps he could follow the example of Usain Bolt, who conspicuously doesn’t give safety advice to pedestrians at all…

* your mileage may vary

“Stravandals”: the Strava safety police and their “hazardous” own goal

The 85th percentile speed for the Roseburn Path on Strava is only a hair over 20mph – the design speed for modern shared cycle facilities

How self-appointed safety police are doing much more harm than good

Over on CCE, someone posted a link to a fascinating Strava heatmap showing to-the-second recorded rides for a huge number of UK cyclists.

It’s worth emphasising that this kind of information is virtually unprecedented. For the first time planners, policymakers (and everyone else) potentially has access to aggregate and individual cycling behaviour on a second-by-second basis.

heatmap

Just as a taste, you can actually see that nobody (who uses Strava) cycled along the Quality Bike Corridor at the same time that the much bigger (parallel) Minto St / Gilmerton Rd was seeing heavy traffic. You can see that large numbers of cyclists are using the nasty 40mph A702 to enter Edinburgh but you can also see that they don’t like it (because a significant majority divert onto Braid Rd at the first opportunity).

It’s taken years for Edinburgh Council not to fit bike counters that, once rolled out, will still not really tell us much about cycling patterns, let alone give us the ability to examine the rest of their route.

Enter the Stravandals

Unfortunately, Strava is becoming increasingly compromised by “stravandalising” – the vexatious flagging of stretches of road or path as “hazardous” by self-appointed internet policemen (or women, in fairness, etc. etc.).

While I’m not unsympathetic to the views of people who think comparing speeds on any public thoroughfare is intrinsically wrong, they seem to fail to appreciate that there’s no objective assessment to make. By this I mean that while speeding or drink driving are nice and objective, the “hazard” flag is a purely moral judgement, and as I see it, one that is rarely being made wisely.

Strava’s apparent fear of bad press has led inexorably to the point where my own commute now has fewer sections which are apparently safe to cycle than those which are not, and I suspect things are only this “good” because other users are re-creating segments as fast as they can be deleted.

Why anyone would pay a monthly fee for something which anybody with a free account can delete in moments is quite beyond me – I made the decision long ago that I wouldn’t pay for Strava under those conditions.

15mph_hazardous
A “hazardous” 15mph… 5mph below modern path design speed.

In terms of the market, the issue of “stravandalising” segments promises to be quite interesting. Strava users who feel they’re paying for a service which they don’t receive are easy pickings for rival services that offer a better proposition.

You’d think Strava would be desperately concerned that someone’s going to do a Facebook on their MySpace – it’s not that hard to imagine.

Strava: a priceless safety resource?

Few people will see it this way, but let me make the argument:

I find it pleasingly ironic that people who claim to be motivated by safety seem hell-bent on destroying pretty much the only centralised record of realtime cycling behaviour that’s ever been gathered. Talk about taking the short view.

When you look at “hazard” segments in detail the picture that is painted is often not one of road rash, mangled kittens and dead toddlers at all, but this demands the wisdom to look beyond any distaste at the headline element, something Stravandals clearly lack.

Researching this piece, I looked up the leaderboards of two classic Edinburgh “hazard” routes that have long since been expunged from Strava: the Union Canal and the Roseburn Path.

I hear you gasp in horror. But what does Strava’s leaderboard actually reveal?

The maximum segment speed reached by any cyclist on the Union Canal this month is 16mph, while the maximum reached by any cyclist descending the Roseburn Path is 21mph. (As you’d hope, these speeds reflect that while both are very quiet during most hours of the day, the canal is only wide enough for two cyclists to ride abreast, while the Roseburn is the width of a road).

I’m not interested in arguing about whether 16mph is too fast on a deserted towpath.

I don’t even feel like pointing out that the original Strava segments both time-shifted cyclists to quieter hours of the day (last summer I left an hour early and avoided almost all pedestrians, but with no segment, I may as well ride the same way in rush hour) and discouraged rapid progress across the Slateford viaduct (because the segments were at either side of it, it wasn’t timed).

I *agree* that there’s a moral argument that says this is all wrong, but based on the actual casualty stats, I also believe that any objective assessment of the risk would find that it’s relatively trivial.

I people watch well over a hundred miles a week and the fast riders are almost never the bad ones. Want to see near misses? It’s the two-tings-and-a-prayer brigade that are doing the damage, and they’re hardly the Strava stereotype…

What I think is much more interesting is the argument that brushing this under the carpet, hiding the data in the hopes that cyclists will all start dragging their brakes, is both a failure in terms of safety and actually a retrograde step – if people are dispersed from Strava to rival services who take a stronger line for their users this resource, which really seems to exonorate cyclists more than it condemns them, could be lost.

Strava speed = not necessarily that fast

The 85th percentile speed for the Roseburn Path this year is only a hair over 20mph – the design speed for modern shared cycle facilities. And that’s counting each individual’s *fastest effort* with the prevailing wind behind them – for a true picture you then need to drill down further: I show on the leaderboard at 18mph but my average is 15mph…

Isn’t this actually rather reassuring? Worrying about the KOM alone is like making road safety decisions based on the fastest speed any single car has ever travelled at, ignoring the question of how fast people drive from day to day.

It would require more data gathering than can be managed in retrospect to see whether the removal of segments has actually led to a reduction in speeds (I wouldn’t expect so, but I’m only guessing).

Let me finish with this question: if motorists were voluntarily publishing personally identifiable GPS records of their speed and route, can anyone seriously argue that we should hide that data, bury our heads in the sand – or would we be falling over ourselves to access the lessons that data contains, and reassure ourselves that people just aren’t driving all that fast (or are they?)

The sad thing is – there are objectively hazardous locations and the most popular Strava segments invariably grew to be the ones which didn’t include them. What we have now is the old school “how fast can I do my entire route, traffic lights and all” – is that actually safer?

Whew. If you stayed with me through that, you deserve a badge…

Dooring – depressingly common

It’s lucky I’ve seen so many offences committed on Edinburgh’s streets that I was covering the brakes…

The #1 cause of cycling KSIs is a flung-open door

I’m not going to say much about this, other than to point out that it’s lucky I’ve seen so many offences committed on Edinburgh’s streets that I was covering the brakes and able to stop without drama.

Something I learned the hard way as a student, when I was taken off by a flung-open door in moving traffic (!).

I could write to the council and report the taxi – 8am, no stopping zone, W309 PSX (taxi number 1199) and a clear offence under Construction & Use… but what’s the point? It would merely be noted as no death occurred (and presumably I “came out of nowhere” despite wearing a white jacket 😉 )

These days you can actually get prosecuted if you’re doing something as unusual as driving while eating a bowl of cereal, but something like this is so depressingly common that it’s not even worth reporting.

On wisdom and culpability

We must demand the highest standard from drivers who kill when they err. You could be next – do you want other cyclists to blame you? Then don’t blame them.

We must demand the highest standard from drivers who kill when they err

Society only gives the drivers of large vehicles one job, and it is this: before you hit the accelerator, ensure you aren’t about to crush someone in front of you. Before you spin the wheel, ensure you aren’t about about to crush someone beside you.

The vast majority of drivers are pretty good at this, which is why the death toll caused by large vehicles is so much lower than it could be.

Unfortunately, when they do fail to follow this simple rule the victim’s chances of survival are slim, which is why the drivers of large vehicles are involved in around 50% of fatalities despite making just 5% of urban vehicle movements.

Many large vehicles have such good mirrors that it’s actually impossible to disappear from view regardless of the position you are in.

This is not true of them all, but that is hardly a mitigation in the driver’s favour. It is to be hoped that we will reach a position where operating a vehicle without safety mirrors becomes a criminal offence, but even today there can be no question that the driver’s first responsibility is to satisfy themselves that they aren’t about to take a life when they spin the wheel.

“I couldn’t confirm it was safe, so I did it anyway” isn’t accepted from anyone else who is responsible for preserving lives, and you owe it to yourself not to allow the terrible frequency of large vehicle deaths to blind you to this basic truth.

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The TFL “die in” protest, courtesy Docklandsboy

Silly cyclists are only silly – they do not give the driver a free kill

Because the drivers of large vehicles are the single biggest threat to their lives, many cyclists have developed a healthy paranoia about being anywhere near one, and the authorities have invested significantly in awareness campaigns targeting cyclists in the hopes of reducing preventable deaths.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Women are sometimes warned to avoid certain areas for fear that they will be assaulted.

Critically, it doesn’t follow that rapists are less culpable if their victim failed to follow that advice, nor is someone crushed by a driver who swings his lorry about without looking partly to blame, just because we know that drivers sometimes fail to ensure their path is clear.

There are huge political and financial incentives for the authorities to fix the blame on victims of bad driving. Look at the way Boris immediately came out on the attack against cyclists after London’s spate of recent killings – not only does this go down well with certain sections of society, it divides cyclists themselves over the artificial distinction of whether the victim could have avoided being crushed to death by the driver who failed to check their course was clear.

The apparent failure of cyclists to appreciate this is one of the biggest obstacles to a unified outcry against large vehicle homicides.

Yes, it’s often unwise to pass a large vehicle on the right, or the left, or even to sit in front of it.

Yes, avoiding the drivers of large vehicles can seem ridiculously easy to an aggressive and experienced rider.

Yes, there would probably be fewer deaths if every cyclist was as wise as yours truly.

But at the end of the day, there are over sixty million people living in the UK who are not HGV drivers. We have a basic right not to be crushed to death by a professional who fails to ensure their path is clear.

Cycling unwisely doesn’t excuse the driver anything.

You could be next. Do you want other cyclists to blame you? Then don’t blame them.

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Courtesy Richard Gough